The inability to sleep has always been an issue for me. I don’t call it insomnia because it’s not a condition that exists on its own. My chronic pain issues make it difficult for me to get comfortable. There are digestive problems that wake me up. I suffer from hypervigilance, which means that every unusual noise puts my brain on high alert, scanning for trouble. Most of the time I can roll over and go back to sleep fairly quickly. Sometimes I know that I’m going to be up for a while, so I get up and go into another room so that I don’t disturb Katie.
Gripping story so far, I know. Just bear with me.
When we were still in Albuquerque I could almost predict when I was going to wake up. It would be just in time to wander into the studio, turn on the television, and catch The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson. I almost suspect that subconsciously I wanted to watch the show, because I’d always wake up right before it came on or right after it began. The TV would click on right at the end of Letterman, or just after Craig had started his monologue. The main thing going against this subconscience theory is that if I were making a choice, I’d get up in time to catch Dave, too.
So we’re in Finland now and there’s really no talk show scene here, not like in the United States. Because of the time shift, we’re 7 hours ahead of the east coast, 10 after of the west, so we’re not catching any late-night programming from America in real time. A lot of shows post clips on YouTube, and Katie and sometimes catch them in the morning when we’re having coffee and breakfast. But that doesn’t solve my problem, namely, what am I going to watch in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep?
Because in the middle of the night I want people on the TV talking to me, or at least at me. I want to see people having a non-scripted conversation, in something resembling real time. By that I mean, I don’t want to see a reality show that we shot months ago and then edited together. I want talk show interviews, which a brief but generally whole and genuine. They may go smoothly, they may go awkward, but they at least resemble real people. There’s something comforting abot that, in the low-single-digit hours of the morning.
I’ve found multiple people on YouTube that post whole Craig Ferguson episodes. I’m certain they’re not legal, but I figure piracy is YouTube’s problem, not mine. There’s not a lot of Letterman, but I suspect that CBS and Letterman’s own people are more vigilante about that intellectual property. The network didn’t really care about Ferguson’s show when he was on the air, so I can’t imagine that they’d lift a finger to protect it now.
There’s something weird about watching the show now, though, in the middle of the night, in Finland. Yes, it’s comforting, and Craig’s funny, and it lets me disconnect for a bit so I can go back to sleep when it’s over. The show’s been off the air for years now. Some of the episodes I find are over a decade old. I feel like I’m on another planet or a spaceship or something, and the broadcast is just reaching me.
He’ll be talking about that day in the monologue, as if I’m there in that point in time as well. Sometimes he’ll have a guest on that’s someone I know is now dead, and all I can think is cripes, I’m glad I’m not trying to watch Carson. In the dark, with just me and the glow of the screen, I feel like I’m outside of space and time.
It’s incredibly isolating and deeply depressing. I’m not watching this on television, in a scheduled time slot, with millions, or hundreds or thousands, or even tens of people. It’s just me. This is me in another country, not assimilating, not moving forward, doing something familiar for no reason other than it’s familiar. It feels dysfunctional, and at the same time it feels like a cord tethering me to some baseline reality.
In the morning I’m less existential about it. Being up for 45 minutes during the wee hours gets to so tired that I don’t care about pain and discomfort. The act of sitting up settles me stomach, allowing any late dinner or snacks time to digest a bit more. I crash hard. I sleep well. The ritual works.
But I still end up spending part of the day wondering if this is what it would be like to live on Mars.